Thursday, August 23, 2012

Support Assange

AN INTENSE debate has broken out among people who claim to be progressive and “lefties”, on the internet and in the pages of many left-wing publications about Julian Assange, the fugitive founder of Wikileaks.
 He is currently staying put inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London after the Government of Ecuador, after careful consideration, has granted him political asylum. But our Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has categorically refused him safe passage from the embassy to leave Britain for Ecuador.
 A year or so ago most of the Left in Britain and throughout the world were hailing Assange as a hero for publishing on the web details of secret communications between the United States government and its embassies and military bases around the world.
 These were extremely embarrassing to the US and other imperialist powers as their underhanded dealings, machinations and manipulations were revealed – along with the casual cruelties in the various imperialist wars in the Middle East. The revelations also embarrassed other governments to a greater or lesser extent but the countries of the world divided and revealed their real position on human rights as they lined up, either to condemn Assange and the Wikileaks team as shameful traitors who should be tried and shot, and those like Venezuela, who praised him as a great hero and offered him sanctuary.
 Since then we have come to know Assange a little better. He seems to be not particularly left wing, rather something of an anarchist and a bit of an egotist.
 Predictably the imperialist powers reacted at first furiously and then with a campaign to try to discredit him and to get him into a position where the government of the United States could put him on trial.
 He has been accused of rape by two women in Sweden, where he used to live. Sweden has asked for his extradition to face trial and, after several lengthy court battles, the British government has assented and was prepared to send him to Sweden before he took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy.
 There is little doubt that heavy pressure on both Britain and Sweden is being wielded behind the scenes by the US government and that the ultimate aim, once he is in custody, is to send him to the US, where he could face the death penalty. He has never lived in the US and that country has no jurisdiction over him but that sort of thing never bothered the country that built the concentration camp at Guantánamo or that has secret torture bases – not so secret after Wikileaks – around the world.
  It should be natural for all progressives to support him but the imperialists are using their infiltrators to darken his name and divide the Left in a war of words for and against Assange.
 We cannot prove the rape allegations are untrue but we hold him innocent until proven guilty. And he has publicly declared he would agree to go to Sweden if that government could guarantee he would not then be sent to the US. They will not guarantee that.
 But we do know that the CIA, MI5, MI6 and the rest have a long history of framing and smearing individuals who are bold enough to challenge their power. They seriously want to discourage anyone doing anything like that again by making a horrible example of him – as they are already doing to his alleged source, the former US soldier Bradley Manning.
 Bradley Manning has been incarcerated in the US under the most inhumane conditions and is unlikely to see freedom again unless there is a workers revolution in the US. He as much in need of public support as Assange.
 In the process of traducing Assange, his smearers are also attacking Ecuador, making it out to be some sort of banana republic or petty dictatorship. Ecuador is part of the strong, left-wing Bolivarian Alliance that includes Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba.
 And the imperialists’ desperation is shown by the British government’s attempt to arrest Assange inside the Ecuadorean embassy and threat to breach it by force. This is absolutely contrary to all international law and the diplomatic repercussions against Britain from other countries could be serious. The police forces of Britain do not usually put this much effort into chasing alleged rapists.
 Assange is not a saint but he doesn’t have to be. His work has done a lot of damage to imperialism by exposing its ugly, deceitful, cruel and greedy underbelly. Genuine left-wing workers’ and communist parties around the world recognise this and will rally to defend him and Bradley Manning.

Stop the Wikileaks witch-hunt

JULIAN Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, last week called on the Unites States to end its "witch-hunt" against Wikileaks, in his first public statement since entering Ecuador's London embassy.
 He also called for the release of Bradley Manning, who is awaiting trial in the US accused of leaking classified documents to the Wikileaks site.
 Assange spoke from a balcony at the embassy and thanked Ecuador's president, who has granted him asylum. He faces extradition to Sweden over sexual assault claims, which he denies.
 He said US must also stop its "war on whistleblowers," and added: “The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters.
 "The United States must pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful.
 Assange also said the United States was facing a choice between re-affirming the "revolutionary values it was founded on" or "dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark".

Sunday, August 12, 2012

London remembers Hiroshima Day

Remembering Hiroshima at Charlton House
 by New Worker

AROUND 300 peace activists gathered last Monday to mark 6th August as Hiroshima Day in Tavistock Square Central London and lat in the evening in south-east London another 60 gathered in the Peace Garden at Charlton House to mark the event.
The event commemorates the detonation of atomic bombs at Hiroshima and a few days later at Nagasaki – the only two atom bombs ever used in warfare that caused such death and destruction that such weapons have never been used again.
 And the horrors of those two bombs sparked the creation of a worldwide peace movement calling for an end to all nuclear weapons – and other weapons of mass destruction.
In Tavistock Square campaigners gathered around the Japanese cherry tree to hear veteran peace campaigner Tony Benn, CND general secretary Kate Hudson and Green MP Jean Lambert speak before observing a minute’s silence.
 At Charlton House, in the grounds, campaigners gathered to share food they had brought and then proceeded to the peace garden to hear poetry and songs before also observing a minute’s silence.
 Then as rain threatened, they went inside the House for more music and reminiscences among the campaigners, who included veterans of the first Ban-the-Bomb marches and Greenham Common.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Police kettle cyclists as Olympics open

THE METROPOLITAN Police last Friday used the opening of the Olympics as an excuse to attack the regular monthly Critical Mass cycle ride around central London.
 The police have never liked this event, which has no organisers and no pre-planned route and takes place on the last Friday of each month.
 In 2005 they tried to stop them by handing out notices informing participants of the requirement under section 11 of the Public Order Act 1986 to notify the police of the route of any “public procession” – and the criminal consequences of failing to do so.
 This notification requirement doesn’t apply to processions “commonly or customarily held” and a legal case that went all the way to the House of Lords established that Critical Mass comes within this exception. 
 On Friday the police tried again, this time using section 12 of the same Act. This allows a senior police officer to impose restrictions on a public procession if he/she considers the procession might, among other things, result in “serious disruption to the life of the community”.
 Relying on this power, the Met banned Critical Mass participants from using the Olympic Route Network or going north of the Thames. 
 The police kettled one group of cyclists in Stratford, east London and used considerable force to drag cyclists from the bikes. This included one elderly disabled cyclist on a tricycle.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Bread and Circuses in London

FEW OF US have been able to afford a seat at the London Olympics and those who do and then manage to struggle through the queues face another fleecing from the corporate caterers, determined to make the most of the monopolies they’ve paid for in the grounds.
            The opening ceremony was certainly an entertaining tableau of history which made a passing nod to working people in a romp that spanned the centuries. Whether this makes the year’s sporting spectacular the “People’s Olympics” is another matter.
            The Soviet Spartakiads and the great sporting festivals of the old people’s democracies in eastern Europe were genuine People’s Olympics with sporting champions and mass games drawn from the factories, farms and offices of socialism. But those days are sadly long gone except in China and Democratic Korea.
Today we can still admire the efforts of the British teams competing against the finest athletes in the world and we can also take some comfort in watching the achievements of the sportsmen and sportswomen from People’s China and the other people’s democracies this week. China has predictably taken an early lead in the medals stakes but even Democratic Korea has bagged three gold medals so far  – a remarkable achievement for the land of Juché that demonstrates the DPR Korea’s long-standing commitment to health and sport under socialism.
            A Zionist attempt to politicise the Games, by lobbying for a minute’s silence at the opening ceremony to honour the Israeli athletes killed during a Palestinian Black September attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972, was rejected as inappropriate by the International Olympic Committee. This was also the view of Prime Minister, David Cameron and Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson.
            Cameron, who attended a commemorative event for the Israeli athletes at the Guildhall, said while it was important to remember what happened in 1972 planned memorial events were the proper way to do that. This was echoed by the head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee that is fielding four athletes in the London Games. Jibril Rajoub said: "Sport is a bridge for love, unification and for spreading peace among the nations. It must not be a cause for divisiveness and for the spreading of racism.”
            That’s certainly the modern Olympic ideal that claims to inherit the tradition of the Greco-Roman Olympiads. Whether it was true then, in an age when slavery was the considered the norm and when the “games”, at least in Roman days, had a different meaning in the Colosseum, is a matter of opinion.
            How true it is today is also debatable. At least the games were free in Roman times along with the food scattered amongst the crowd to keep them happy. The Romans called it “bread and circuses” and they were sponsored by the Roman elite as a way of distracting the slaves and the poor from their woes.
 These days it’s the exact opposite. Nothing is free and the poor are virtually excluded by cost from all the live events. Seats cost an arm and a leg and the spectators pay through the nose for any food or drink available at the stadiums.
The Olympic ideal may still be true for many of the athletes and the millions who watch the events on TV in Britain and the rest of the world. But today there is little doubt that the Olympiad is seen as nothing more than a cash cow and a global trade fair by corporate business and the politicians who serve them.